Saturday, May 15, 2010

New Zion Traverse Speed Record 7 hours 58 minutes

"The Trans-Zion Trek (sometimes also called the "Zion Traverse") is a 48-mile route across Zion National Park in Southwestern Utah. It runs from Lee Pass in the Kolob Canyons section of the park, to the East Entrance Trailhead, though stunning and diverse high desert landscape. The route is typically done as a 5-day backpacking trip."

a brief history:
fastest known times page:  in may of 2008 i visited my buddy karl meltzer in salt lake city.  he had just returned from running across the entire zion national park with jared campbell.  they had revived this incredible route and had taken some sweet video.  karl was pretty excited about the run (blog report on it w/video).  i had never been to zion, but the seed was planted.  

bo beck probably set the first standard of 14hrs 25mins.  jared and karl's revival and video shoot set the new record at 10h27min.  famous backpacker andrew skurka then took that down to 9h27mins before jared and buddy christian johnson took 18mins off skurka's time nov 27, 2009 running 9h 08mins (blog report).  

jared showed me the east entrance to cable mtn in january (blog w/videos).  last week while snow storms hit salt lake i retreated to zion to scout the route a bit more.  i had a blast and was blown away.  but with pocatello 50 miler coming up i had a very small window to try and run it as fast as i could.  i think this route is stunningly beautiful.  in my opinion it's an ever better adventure run than the venerable double crossing of the grand canyon. 

the report:
 my lovely assistant linda barton flew into slc late wednesday night.  i can't thank her enough for all the help.  wouldn't have run that fast without her.  we left slc at 2pm and had just enough time for me to show linda the finishline at lee pass and then the 50km / 31mile mark at wildcat trail where she'd be crewing me.

i didn't really sleep the night before as per my usual.  i was just too excited.  i was going to run the route east to west as skurka had.  there are advantages to both directions.  east to west is 400 feet more vertical climbing, as lee pass / la verkin trailhead is 400ft higher than the east entrance / east rim trailhead where i'd start.  i weighed my options and decided for these reasons to run east to west:

  1. as skurka points out on his report you get the massive climb out of zion canyon done earlier in the route. 
  2. logistically driving from salt lake, stopping at the lee pass finish and wildcat trail then camping and continuing east made more sense and saved time... less driving. 
  3. my run with jared had really soured me to the east rim trail.  i wasn't fit (or ah, i wasn't as fit as jared), so i had trouble keeping up with him and i just didn't want to replay that by running west to east.

i started running from the east entrance at 8:15am.  i felt pretty good that morning but still had some residual soreness in my right quad from a run up mt olympus in slc 2 days prior.  probably should have taken it a bit easier on the way down.  i told linda i'd be at the grotto somewhere around 1hr 30min - 1h50m.  it's just 12 miles and drops you into zion canyon.  there is a good hard semi-paved downhill from weeping rock.  i popped off the trail at the bottom in 1hr 30m having to use the bathroom pretty bad.  after doing some business i realized there was no tp.  with my mhw shorts around my ankles i literally covered my package and shuffled from one bathroom to the other, as horrified tourists looked on.  ha.  i probably ran a 7/min mile to the grotto on the one mile of road on this whole route.  another good reason to run east to west, get that damn pavement out of the way earlier!

i arrived at the grotto bridge to meet linda in 1hr 40m.  for the first section i had run with a nathan elite pack and a 10oz water bottle.  i met linda at the grotto bridge and took a full nathan #020 running pack with 70oz of nuun in it.  it felt sooo heavy.  but i had 21 miles until i would see her again and it was the biggest part of the run with the 3,000 - 4,000ft climb up to the west rim.  i ran that about 2mins faster than my scouting run and was feeling pretty good.  once on the west rim the hr dropped and the smile extended.  stunningly beautiful scenary has a way of transporting me from the pain cave to a happier place.

i was running numbers in my head and repeating my mantra for this run ~ "concentrated power of will".  i knew i'd be close to the 5 hour mark for the first 31 miles where the wildcat meets the connector trail.  if i could make it there in 5hrs i figured i might be able to go sub 8 hours.  linda had hiked out the .9miles and brought me banana and orange slices.  she's awesome.  when i saw linda the suunto t6c read 5h10m.  2mins later i was running out the connector trail.  she met me for the last time just down the road at the hop valley trailhead.  here is where i made a crucial planning mistake.  i left there with one 24oz waterbottle and just 4 gels for the next 2 - 2.5hrs and 14 miles.

as i ran away i sort of freaked out.  i knew i could probably, if all went well, run under 8hrs.  but i had just set myself up for failure.  i would absolutely run out of water... but i knew i could drink from the likely very very contaminated la verkin river.  i had 4 gels, which wouldn't be enough for my planned visit to the pain cave up the last climb.  but i didn't have any electrolytes.. no nuun in my bottle, no backup endurolytes.  "i am screwed" i thought.

i ran hard across the hop valley, which is probably my favorite section of the entire traverse.  losing the route here is easy and there is a lot of sand to make sure you are going slow enough to look around and behold the beauty.  running east to west meant 400 extra feet of climbing compared to the the other direction.  it also meant i had to finish with a 1,000ft climb in the last 3 miles to my finishline.  i was dreading this last section.  in the hop valley i started to have an ache in my soleus (lower calf).  it was likely due to a bit of dehydration.  i was running hard in the full blazing sun in the hottest part of the day.  i knew i'd have to bury it, and well, bury myself to set the speed record under 8hrs.

the last 3 miles felt like 20.  i pushed my pace even though i was out of water and fuel.  my mouth was dry and i was cramping.  the wheels had come off and i was dragging axles at this point.  i pushed the last two steep sections hard and when i saw linda i just put my head down and ran the stairs (above photo), fully embracing the pain.  i touched the sign and hit the stop on the suunto before quickly laying down and begging for nuun.

finish photo at la verkin trailhead, lee pass

i ran the 48 miles with 10,400ft of gain across zion national park in 7 hours 58 minutes 07 seconds.  with jared and christian's previous record time of 9h 08mins i had managed to take 1h 10mins off the record.  i'm happy with that.

the gear i used:

Friday, May 7, 2010

Client Race Report - Bryan Estes Runs 8hr 30min at Capitol Peak 50 Miler

Capitol Peak 50 Mile Race Report by Bryan Estes
April 25th, 2010

I'm new to the world of ultrarunning so each race I've done so far has been somewhat of an adventure into the unknown. Going into the Capitol Peak 50 Mile my biggest day was 12 Summits back in mid-February so I wasn't sure how I would respond to the additional mileage and faster pace the race would bring. I was confident in my training over the past several months (thanks, Matt!) and had been feeling good during the two weeks leading up to race day highlighted by a solid 40 mile/10,000 foot weekend and a long day trip up Eldorado Peak the following Sunday. Just run smart and I'd be okay. My goal was to run at a pace that would allow me to enjoy the overall experience finishing strong and feeling relatively good - if I could do it around 10 hours, all the better. 

Most of Saturday was spent relaxing and preparing for the next day. I recruited my fiance, Niki, and my mom to crew for me during the race so I stocked my truck with all the necessities, triple-checked everything to make sure nothing important was left out and ate an early dinner. We decided we were going to just make the drive down the morning of the race so I was in bed by 8pm feeling surprisingly calm with the alarm set for 2:30am.

Early the next morning we made it to the Mima Campground start area and got checked in with plenty of time to spare before the 6am start. I reviewed the course map again, hoped for the best and waited for the pre-race briefing. 

It was getting light by the time we got started and I settled into the middle of the pack as we started to funnel down to the first section of singletrack. The pace was slow thru the first couple of miles and would sometimes become a walk when we would come to the muddy sections of trail or inclines. I intended to be very conservative during the first half of the run so I felt content just moving with the group and hanging out right where I was until we got to A1 (5 miles). As we crossed over the forest road I jumped ahead of a few people and settled back into a comfortable pace. The group had thinned out quite a bit by this point and I found myself running with two other guys thru to A2 (8.5 miles). I grabbed a handful of M & M's and was on my way and feeling good.

The next few miles went by quick and easy and I came thru A3 (12.9 miles) sooner then expected. I found Niki and my mom waiting for me with the back of my truck open and all my stuff ready to go. I refilled on nuun and Gu, grabbed my iPod and eased back into it as I head off down the road toward the next section of trail. 

I was still feeling really good and got into a good rhythm as I made my way toward and eventually up Capitol Peak. This was definitely a hiking section for me with the Captiol Peak website boosting this as 1,000 ft of gain over less than a mile. I was able to pass several people as I moved at a relatively quick pace up the rocky trail before cresting the top and making my way down a gravel road into A4 (16.8 miles). I stopped here long enough to chug a bottle of nuun and restock on more Gu. On my way out I grabbed a granola bar and quickly ate it as I walked toward the trail. 

As I picked up the pace to a run again I got in behind another guy, followed his lead and enjoyed an easy ride into A5 (21.5 miles). I refilled on nuun again and head off onto the 4 mile loop made up of singletrack and forest road that would bring me back around to A5 before beginning the remainder of the run back to the Mima campgrounds. I continued to feel good both mentally and physically as I finished off the loop and made another quick stop at A5 (now 25.5 miles) for a Snickers and began to walk up the trail out of the aid-station. At this point I was just around the 4:30ish mark making me worry that I may have been running too fast thru the first half of the course.

It was between here and the next aid-station that I probably had my roughest patch of the day. 

There was nothing in particular that was bothering me but I was feeling my energy fade pretty quickly and wanted to walk more than I had at any other point up to there. I gave myself a chance to slow the pace on the uphills and focused on hydrating more. Before long I was feeling my strength come back and was talking with a guy I caught up to about his experience at Leadville as we rolled into A6 (30.1 miles). I chugged another bottle of nuun here and started back up toward the top of Capitol Peak. 

The route from the top of Capitol Peak was different then the one we had come up early in the day but did intersect that trail at one point on the way down. This area was clearly marked with paint and signs so I was confident as I continued thru the intersection and on my way that I was headed in the right direction. I was feeling really good again and moving at a quick pace down the soft trail when I realized I hadn't seen one of the now familiar red and white ribbons for a while. As I continued to run I started to convince myself that I had misread the directions earlier since I'd just cruised by without slowing much and was now off course. I actually considered turning around a couple times before stopping to consult my map. From what I could tell I had gone the right way and decided that if I was off course I was going to go for a while and really convince myself of it before turning around and running back uphill. Fortunately, I spotted a ribbon down the trail soon after and sped up in relief that I was I was on the right track. In hindsight, I think I was just getting tired at this point and was letting my mind wander and obsess over not having seen a ribbon for probably no more than a lousy 10 or 15 minutes. Obviously, this is something that I will need to improve upon for longer and more self-sufficient races but also reminds me to be intentional about my decision-making even during obvious or safe situations. 

I came into A7 (37.2 miles) still feeling really good and confident that I was going to get thru the rest of the run. I restocked on Gu again and took off from here thinking incorrectly that I was at A8 and less than 9 miles from the finish. With that distance remaining in mind, I ran the next section way harder than I would have had I realized where I actually was on the course. In the long run I don't think it hurt me much and I realized my mistake just before I came into the real A8 (41.6 miles) where Niki and my mom were waiting for me again. We laughed because I'd left the last aid-station saying, 'See ya at the finish!' which they realized was a mistake soon after I left. I chugged another bottle of nuun and took off feeling great and knowing that I really only had 8.5 miles left to go this time. 

I moved at a steady pace waiting to see the water jugs waiting at A9 (45.1 miles) that I had seen several hours earlier in the day and marking the 5 mile mark from the finish. I started to pass several people during this time but given the early start and 55K race on the same course wasn't really sure how much progress I was making. I finally popped out on to the road at the last aid-station and passed some people stopping to refill. From here to the finish was awesome. I slowed a couple times to alleviate some minor cramping but mostly just enjoyed how well the day had gone and that it was just matter of time before I would finish my first 50 miler. I finally crossed the finish line in final time of 8:30:38 good for 15th overall and well ahead of what I expected to run.

Niki and my mom were waiting for me again like they had been all day and had my Ultragen and a Ginger Ale ready for me! 

During the course of the day I ate 2-3 Gu's per hour (Chocolate and Vanilla), 1 granola bar at mile 16.8 and a Snickers at mile 25.5. In between that I drank Orange-Ginger nuun for what seemed like non-stop during the day but probably should have been even more. Overall, this race felt like another solid step in the right direction in developing my fitness and strategy as I work toward Cascade Crest 100 at the end of August. Can't wait for summer to get here!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cramming in Zion National Park

whilst the wasatch got 7' of snow in 4 days last week i retreated to warmer climes for a cram session.  it seems as though salt lake city residents rely on zion national park and the st george area as their warm weather reprive.  i am now one of them.  i'm growing increasingly nervous about the pocatello 50 miler (pre-run vid) on may 30th.  no, not about whether i'll be beat sean, but about my well being during the race.

i didn't write a blog on my experience at peterson ridge rumble 60km because i was doing all i could to forget the experience.  it was a true dichotomy of feelings.  getting to spend time with linda, sean, dan, ellen and the crew was awesome.  but the race couldn't have been worse.  my hip, THE looming issue in my running career came out  in full force to remind me i'm not ok.  that i've got an issue, and at some point in each race it's got to be dealt with.  for peterson i took things a bit too easy.  i just showed up with two bottles and some nuun.  what i needed was my own gels, some sort of plan and most importantly some ibuprofen or anti-inflamatory.

needless to say peterson 60km was a hit to my confidence.  once back in slc i now had two good weeks of training before a two week taper.  that's it.  two weeks to get some good work done and find some confidence.. time to cram.  so i headed to zion national park.

for the first few days i was there i hooked up with a few friends down in st george for the first ever st george ironman (swim start, bike).  i wanted to run the entire trans zion traverse route that jared and karl had told me about back in 2008.

i made a trip down there this winter with jared and mindy that blew my mind.  this time around, although i brought a mtn bike, and there are numerous other amazing trails around... i obsessed on the zion traverse.  clark dropped me off to run up and out one day, 20 miles from the grotto to the wildcat trailhead (video).  on my own i ran the other direction from the grotto to the east entrance and back, 23 miles (video).  and left the big day for my last day in zion, running la verkin creek, hop valley and connector to wildcat (17 miles) and back again for 34miles on the day.  here is a video of hop valley blowing my mind.  each of these runs provided "wholly sh*t" moments where i just couldn't believe where i was running, that these types of places actually exist.  the hop valley in particular for me just felt like the land of the lost.  all alone in the middle of nowhere surrounded by massive sandstone cliffs.  stunning.  i somehow managed my biggest week in two years crammed into five days in zion, 92 miles.  more importantly i'm not hurt.  with care and kindness the hip seems to be playing along.

also took a bit of footage for my sponsor montrail as well as some for my own annual ultrarunning video.  here is just a taste of the goodness... enjoy!